Donald Trump is very serious about his stance on illegal immigration, and fellow candidates, who as recently as last week continued to mock his run for the presidency, now seem to be joining his extreme positions, including calling to revoke automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants.
Trump on Sunday released his immigration policy statement that includes, among other things, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — which Mexico will pay for; tripling the number of border patrol agents; the “mandatory return of all criminal aliens”; and ending birthright citizenship for American-born children of undocumented parents, calling it “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.”
During an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press the same day, Trump said he would deport all of the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, but would not separate families, because he would also deport their 4 four million children who were born in the United States.
“We’re going to keep the families together, we have to keep the families together,” he said on Meet the Press. “But they have to go.”
Trump said many immigrants travel to the United States with the purpose of giving birth on U.S. soil to increase their chances of staying. “You have people on the border and in one day they walk over, have a baby. And now all of a sudden we’re supposed to pay the baby … medical, Social Security,” Trump later said in an interview with CNN.
While he would deport all of the undocumented immigrants and their U.S.-born children, he would pave a way for the “good ones” to return.
“These people — the really good ones, and we have some great ones — we’re going to try and expedite so they can come back,” he said. “But they’re going to come back legally.”
The Republican field is divided on the issue of birthright citizenship but growing in favor of Trump’s position. In addition to Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Gov. Christ Christie, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Rand Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum are in favor of ending birthright citizenship. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are opposed. Gov. John Kasich in 2010 said he supported amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship but has since changed his position. When asked over the weekend, Gov. Scott Walker initially said he supported ending birthright citizenship but later appeared to walk it back.
Ending birthright citizenship could be a deathblow to Republicans, who already are fighting an uphill battle to earn the Latino vote. According to experts, there is no way the GOP can win a general election if their nominee cannot at least earn close to 35 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Meanwhile, the number of Latino voters is continuing to grow. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the population of Latinos eligible to vote by 2016 is expected to increase by 18 percent over 2012 to about 28 million people, representing more than 11 percent of voters nationwide.
“The GOP should quit treating these families as second-class citizens and join Democrats who support immigrant families and want to keep them together,” said Pablo Manriquez, director of Hispanic Media for the Democratic National Committee, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
In an opinion piece in The Washington Post Tuesday, writer Greg Sargent said, “The 14th amendment [which grants citizenship to ‘all persons born or naturalized in the United States’] and birthright citizenship rank among the great and defining accomplishments of the Republican Party, back when it was the Party of Lincoln.”
But a large number of Republicans today favor the mass deportations Trump supports, including 43 percent in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Meanwhile, according to a Pew Research Center survey in June, 75 percent of Americans — including 76 percent of independents — believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States if certain conditions are met.
The hard line on immigration among Republicans, including Mitt Romney’s call for “self-deportation,” was one of the main reasons cited by the GOP in its assessment over its loss in the 2012 presidential election; this led to a call within the GOP to push for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. Strategists say Republicans risk losing another general election if Latinos continue to view the party as unfriendly.
In the meantime, Trump and the GOP appear to be ignoring their own advice.
“You know, this country is so politically correct,” Trump said on CNN. “Nobody wants to take a stance on anything. Now they like to use the word undocumented because it’s more political — I don’t use that word. They’re illegal immigrants. They came over illegally. Some are wonderful people, and they’ve been here for a while. They’ve got to go out. They’ve got to leave.”